The trial proceedings are not complete when the jury renders a verdict. The decision of the jury can be challenged in posttrial motions for a new trial or for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. These motions usually focus on a claimed error at trial — a mistaken ruling on evidence, inadequate or excessive damages, or a mistaken interpretation of the law by the jury or the trial judge. In most cases, these motions are a prelude to an appeal that will ask an appellate court to review the decision of the trial judge and jury.
As with other motions, the notes of the paralegal trial assistant are very important in preparing these motions. The paralegal must accurately record the events at trial — what the witness said, the specific language used in ruling on the admissibility of an exhibit, the authority cited by the trial judge in making a ruling on the issues presented to the jury for decision. If the paralegal's record of the proceedings is inaccurate, the argument in support of the posttrial motion may be weakened. Incomplete notes may result in the legal team overlooking a possible basis for a posttrial motion. These motions are quite important — a party must give the trial court an opportunity to correct any alleged error before an appeal is allowed.
The trial process comes into play in all areas of legal specialty. A contested custody issue, a probate dispute, or a claim of breach of contract all require a trial or hearing to resolve. In each case, the trial process will govern the resolution of the dispute. All paralegals in all legal specialty fields should be familiar with the basics of assisting at trial.